Monday, July 1, 2013

Washington Social Diary

It was a happy, festive evening at the 125th anniversary gala of the National Geographic Society.
by Carol Joynt

As we ease into the slow weeks of summer in Washington, there at least have been some celebrity distractions from the heat and frequent rain. Just this past week, Tiger Woods was in town for his annual golf tournament, the AT&T National, which is sponsored by his foundation at the lush Congressional Country Club in Potomac, MD. This club, which is seriously sumptuous, has been host to PGA majors and other tournaments and is a favorite of Woods, who had to sit out the actual tournament due to a sprained elbow. He likes the proximity to the nation’s capital and to the military, because one of the core values of the Tiger Woods Foundation is to support and honor the military.
Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island, greeted by Tiger Woods and David Feherty at the opening day ceremony for the AT&T National golf tournament, which is sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation Tiger Woods at Congressional Country Club for the start of the AT&T National.
Among Tiger’s guests at the opening day of the tournament was an individual who has been highlighted in New York Social Diary before, Army PFC Brendan Marrocco of Staten Island. We first wrote about Brendan when we met him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center a year after he'd been wounded in Iraq. Brendan had lost his arms and his legs, but he had a steely determination to go forward, to rebuild his life and his body as best he could. Last December he underwent double arm transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the first patient to have that surgery at that hospital. He's now back at Walter Reed, doing rehab. 
Pro golfer Jim Furyk talks with David Feherty as Brendan Marrocco looks on.
We made a point of saying hello to Brendan and his brother/companion, Michael Marrocco, at the opening ceremony. Brendan looked good. He said he is doing well, feeling fine. Tiger was attentive to him, and had him sit beside him in the front row, with other wounded warriors who are part of CBS sportscaster David Feherty's Troops First Foundation. When he spoke, Feherty said Woods' devotion to the military is an important side of him the public doesn't often see. When Tiger spoke he paid tribute to his father, who did two tours in Vietnam, and the men and women in uniform. "I just want to say thank you every day," he said. 
In welcoming remarks at the first tee, Woods paid tribute to his father, the military and especially wounded warriors.
Who else has been in town? Let’s see. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones blew through for the last U.S. concert of their current tour. They appeared at Verizon Center, which is Washington’s Madison Square Garden. The day before their concert, Verizon hosted One Direction, and the day before that, Bruno Mars and his band. During his stay we spotted Mars at his hotel in Georgetown, the Ritz-Carlton, looking as cute as a button. He sprinted through the lobby with the equally petite members of his band, just barely escaping some fans once he was identified. Still, he was good natured about it. This week Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Darren Criss and Scotty McCeery come to town to help celebrate July 4th.

Just on the other side of the block from the Ritz, there was an over-the-top movie premiere for “White House Down,” which has just opened nationwide, and making an appearance on the “white” carpet were the film’s stars, Channing Tatum and Jamie Fox. They were the draw, and draw they did.
The scene outside the Loews Georgetown theater an hour before the arrival of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx.
Waiting for Channing and Jamie, under the freeway in Georgetown.
Though not quite “Day of the Locust” in its tone, a swarm of happy fans crowded around the Loews Theater, requiring police and other security to keep them at bay. It was the kind of scene where half way there I decided maybe I would wait and see the movie at a routine Saturday matinee. Compounding the frenzy was that there were two guest lists for the premiere, one belonging to Sony Pictures and the other to Equinox, which hosted a pre-party next door at Mate restaurant. It made getting in a little tricky, but in the end it all worked out.
Jamie Foxx and Channing Tarum at the premiere of "White House Down" in Georgetown. (Photo by Daniel Swartz)
To their credit, Tatum and Foxx not only showed up to pose before the ubiquitous “step and repeat” promotional backdrop, they did it with good cheer. My friend and colleague, Tanya Pai, who braved the media mosh pit, said Tatum was nice and, moreover, nicely filled out a navy blue suit. As you surely know, this young actor once upon a time earned his pay as a stripper – in real life – and then, after making it in the movies, played a stripper in a glossy, fictional (and entertaining) film, “Magic Mike.” Pretty cool for him to own it. As far as we know he has no parallel experience with the White House coming to pieces. In the film Foxx is the president and Tatum is a cop who finds himself in the position of having to save the world. Ah, summer movies.
Channing Tatum, doing one of many interviews at the Loews theater in Georgetown. (Photo by Daniel Swartz)
While none of the more than 600 guests caused the same frenzy as Channing Tatum, the 125th anniversary gala of the National Geographic Society did have Hollywood wattage if not exactly glitz – director James Cameron and his wife, actress Suzy Amis. It also had as a guest and honoree an authentic superstar of true adventure – Felix Baumgartner, who jumped to earth from 127,852.4 feet up in the air, wearing only a space suit and, well, it has to be said, a very large pair.

The dramatic backdrop of the gala dinner at the National Building Museum.
To the explorers and scientists who make up the family of NatGeo, the Austrian skydiver is their Channing Tatum. At the pre-dinner VIP reception and any other spot where he stood still for a moment, Baumgartner was approached by guests eager to be in a photo with him.

Who can blame them? He’s good looking, he’s charming and he’s fearless. He obliged amiably. Done up smartly in black tie he looked in every way like a gala circuit regular. But Baumgartner made clear earth was not his preferred zone. “The air is where I am at home,” he said.

Another honoree was “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek. He wore a handsome white dinner jacket, which he joked about as being perhaps out of synch in a crowd of black dinner tuxedos. When a few of us asked him to strike a James Bond pose, guess what? He did. Good attitude.

The NatGeo dinner was a welcomed high note to conclude the spring gala season, which, with a few exceptions, had been heavy with same-old, same-old. Kudos to this venerable, patrician institution. It took a sporting spirit to take on the National Building Museum, which is daunting.

They filled it, they dominated it and they brought a breath of fresh air to the concept of a gala in a cavernous room that typically dwarfs any event held there – with the exception, maybe, of Reginald Van Lee’s wedding.
Another view of the dinner, with a scene of butterflies filling the floor to ceiling screen.
A view of the National Building Museum as guests began to come from cocktails to dinner.
The very non-vegan meal began with lobster.
The main course was bison.
The dessert was a Pavlova with fruit.
What the party designers did was hang a massive screen from the stories high ceiling. Think IMAX. They filled the alcove windows with smaller screens. They ran archival NatGeo films, which filled all the screens. As guests were served dinner, on the big screen, many times larger than life, and the little screens, were surfers, volcanoes, Amazon forests, baby wild animals, the Sphinx, the tundra, ice floes, Penguins. We were transported. It was enchanting.

Cameron, who has been honored in the past as a new explorer in residence, was given two more honors this year, including Explorer of the Year for his dive last year to the deepest part of the ocean. In his remarks, though, he was more earthbound, focusing on his recent life and what he called an “epiphany.”
Suzy Amis with her husband, James Cameron. Felix Baumgartner, who jumped to earth in a space suit, was named Adventurer of the Year.
Cory Richards was named Adventurer of the Year in 2012 and presented the 2013 award to Felix Baumgartner.
The man who found the Titanic, oceanographer Robert Ballard. NatGeo host Boyd Matson.
Jeopardy host and NatGeo honoree, Alex Trebek. Susan Pillsbury.
Cameron’s revelation had to do with food and diet and a call to arms (or forks) of how everyone could help to protect the environment. “I want to challenge you people of conscience,” he said. “There’s one thing you can do: changing what is on the end of your fork. By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract with the other species of the world. My wife and I went vegan a year ago. I feel like I was awakened from a long sleepwalk.”

Cameron left the stage and, in an amusing bit of timing, waiters descended upon all the tables with plates bearing the entrée: red meat. To be precise, filet of farm-raised bison to be precise. At least that’s what was served at my table. No doubt arrangements were made for Cameron and Amis and any other vegans in attendance.
National Building Museum director Chase Rynd with Suzy Amis and James Cameron.
Steve Case, author Sally Bedell Smith, and Jean Case.
Philip Wood, general manager of the Jefferson Hotel.
Congressman Ed Royce and his wife, Marie Royce.
Keith Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler.
My immediate dinner partners were Kevin Chaffee of Qorvis Communications and Sarah Parcak, who is a triple hyphenate of adventure: space archeologist-Egyptologist-National Geographic fellow. She’s also a riveting dinner partner. Kevin and I just sat back and listened as she talked her trajectory from growing up in Bangor, ME, higher education at Yale and Cambridge University, marrying a fellow Egyptologist, becoming a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, trips to Egypt, starting the Laboratory for Global Observation and becoming a new mother.
Archeologist, Egyptologist and NatGeo fellow Sarah Parcak.
On another evening in another spectacular space, the Kogod Auditorium of the National Portrait Gallery, the cable TV industry held a party for hundreds of the people attending their industry confab called The Cable Show. If you watch a lot of cable TV, you would have felt transported.  

The most cameras were trained on identical twin brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott, of HGTV’s the “Property Brothers.” Across the large room, Ricky Schroeder also drew a crowd. He stars in the Hallmark Movie Channel’s “Goodnight for Justice.” Nearby was Naomi Judd. Also in the room, Susan Lucci, the stars of “Devious Maids,” cable channel, and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, with her chief of staff, Dave Grimaldi, and, last but not least, and making his way through the crowd, an actual elected official, the almost always smiling, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.
Inside the National Portrait Gallery's Kogod Auditorium. Check out the window in the middle, with the faces pressed against it. A close up.
Hundreds of cable industry execs and members of the Washington establishment sipped cocktails in the vast enclosed space while up above, from a large window in the Portrait Gallery, a group of tourists stared down at them. It would have been interesting to know what they were thinking as they observed this Washington party, particularly with SpongeBob SquarePants weaving through the crowd, official escort in tow. Is this what social life looks like in the nation’s capital? Well, yes. Sometimes.
ION television president Doug Holloway with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
Mark Cuban, owner of a cable channel and the Dallas Mavericks, opted for casual in his standard polo shirt.
The most in-demand photo op? The hosts of The Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott.
Caught. Jonathan and Drew Scott.
Lined up for some photo action: cable executives Abbe Raven of A&E, Michael Powell of NCTA, Nancy Dubuc of A&E, Anna Ortiz of Devious Maids, and soap star Susan Lucci.
Naomi Judd poses with Ricky Schroeder and his family. Naomi Judd up close.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Ricky Schroeder.
Schroeder posed happily for photos with many fans.
SpongeBob was so popular he had an official escort, staring down the camera on the right.

Last but not least, an invitation from The Washington Ballet to a “wee rooftop bash” at the Capella hotel in Georgetown. It was billed as a “small gathering for a few friends” and, happily, that’s just what it was – about 40 of TWB’s dearest and most generous supporters enjoying a sunny and pleasant summer evening.

The occasion was to get them in the mood for the “British Invasion,” their ballet extravaganza planned for next year. Conversation focused on that and also what to do for their next gala, which celebrates American jazz. It will be tough to top their last gala, the Hemingway in Paris Ball at the Library of Congress, but they know that.
Looking across the Capella's rooftop pool to the party and beyond. (On the horizon is the Washington Monument).
Guests included: Indra Mehrpour, Clara Register, Ted Jewel, Hani Miletski, Dan Rose, Karen Hold, Terry Hazel, Carol Ruppel, Deborah and Braxton Moncure, Arthur Goldberg, Emilio Sacerdoti, Debbie Sigmund, Camilla David, Jane Cafritz, Sylvia de Leon, Maggie Sheedy, Septime Webre, Mary Bird, Sarah Gorman, Liz Sizer, Cristina Pardo, Liz Chu, Elizabeth and Kevin Wrege, Meb Gordon.
Washington Ballet board members Maggie Sheedy, Sylvia de Leon, the chair, and Jane Cafritz.
Elizabeth Wrege, TWB's Liz Sizer, Meb Gordon, and Kevin Wrege.
Dan Rose, Septime Webre, and Karen Hold.
Clara Register and Ted Jewel.
Indira Mehrpour in black with TWB staffers Cristina Pardo and Liz Chu.
Sarah Gorman and Mary Bird.
Among the food that was passed, gazpacho with shrimp.
Terry Hazel, Dan Rose, and Carol Ruppel are offered some salmon canapés.
Emilio Sacerdoti, Camilla David and Washington Ballet managing director Arthur Espinoza.
Sylvia de Leon and TWB artistic director Septime Webre strike a pose. Hani Miletzi.
Deborah and Braxton Moncure.
Jane Cafritz, checking in on her phone as Dan Rose and Clara Register look on. Deborah Sigmund, not letting a bum knee keep her down.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt